As my three year old would say… “Oh my goodness…” where will I start! The adventure race was incredible; it was a real test (on lots of different levels) but what an achievement. It was an absolute pleasure to share it with an unbelievable group of women. From those that I knew to those I met on the day, such an inspirational group of ladies, each with their own story and their own mountain to climb. Yes it was an individual’s race but boy did it feel like we were all in it together.
I have to admit (and you all know what work I had / had not completed on the lead up to the race) I was not prepared for the terrain we had to face; I simply hadn’t really gone through my expectations or perhaps that was my way of not getting too sucked into what I would be capable of on the day!
The build up a the adventure centre was great, nice and relaxed, a bit of banter and craic with the girls, getting all the gear and equipment ready, etc. The first person I was introduced to on the day was Siobhán Wynne, only to realise later what a star Siobhán is, she ran an inspirational race, finishing 4th overall and 1st in the over 40 category. What an incredible achievement Siobhán, congratulations! I hope our paths cross in the future.
So we set off on the run section, 8km – the first 4km was along the road and it was quite a surprisingly nice run, most people making it relatively easily to this marker! Then it was time to take a sharp right hand turn up the mountain!! Ok so a series of hills but it was hill after uphill, after uphill! The terrain was mostly solid underfoot but needed due care and attention. Some amazing views (scenery was incredible) and some not so amazing views… the next hill! This is when the adventure kicked in; some people ran / jogged / walked / crawled!! When things got tough but the spirit to keep going was just so evident.
As I glanced at my watch I could see I had gone almost 7km but I could also see the location of the bikes at the bottom of the mountain (!), mmmm looks like more than 1km away to me! When I see a steward directing us to turn right, literally down the side of the mountain, the terrain was soft, wet bog, bog and more bog. Each step, whilst steep, engulfed the fancy trainers and sucked the life out of my legs. The refreshing part was that it was nice and cool because I certainly was feeling the sun!
There were all sorts of characters would emerge in this section; the girls that were clearly at home and trotted down the bog like pros, but I was also privy to a conversation between a group of Dublin girls who were standing at the top of little jump into the unknown, searching for the courage to take the leap and leap they did, but the funniest conversation I heard going on was when they were coming down a steep section and one of the girls was trying to get the girls to imagine they were skiing, they discussed the angles their feet should be at, the balance and counter balance – visualisation at it’s best!
I was so thrilled to see our two supporters when the bike park came into view and looked forward to getting on the bike for the next section. It started with an uphill section which wasn’t ideal but it forced me to get familiar with the bike and the gears very quickly indeed! I did try to get some food into me but tasted more like sawdust than a protein bar so I put it back in the little pouch and continued the trail. I enjoyed the cycle section, there were plenty of challenging hills and very rough terrain but it turned out my trusty little hybrid bike was ideal for it. There were many ladies walking with their punctured racing bike, changing tubes, fixing punctures etc. There were also a few casualties with cramp etc but luckily most people were still on track and showing as much astonishing strength as they did on that first kilometre.
I wasn’t concerned about the kayaking, as in I don’t have a fear of water so I was looking forward to that, when I dropped my bike back and looked for the direction of the shoreline I felt good, but oh boy was that short lived the 1.5km to get to the kayak was back to the trusty bog, while the day of the race was great sunshine, the two days of rain prior to the race had taken its toll on the ground. It was so energy sapping, as if I had much left in any case! This section felt unfair… we had come so far, conquered so much and had 2 of the three elements completed, why oh why did we have to suffer this bog with all its holes (some got more acquainted with than others!), streams and hardship. These short legs were not able to be jumping across the elements, but that didn’t stop me from wading where I needed to!
I was thrilled to finally see the kayaks and two of our girls just getting our of the water, the kayaking was really good, a nice opportunity to get into the water, pair with a fellow competitor, have a quick chat!, get some encouragement from the support staff and tick yet another element. As I got back to the shore, there were two more of our group of girls just coming to the water, it was great to see we were all still going strong. The 1 or 2 km back to base was mixed for me, I didn’t know if I could jog or needed to walk, it was a mixture of realising I was nearly there and wondering if the finish line would ever come. My watch said 27km and I couldn’t even see the finish line on the horizon! Who said this race was 27km?? I came upon a steward, who assured me it was just over the next hill… not the first time I had hoped this to be the case today! She was right, the finish line was in sight, so were our supporters. It was just mixed emotions crossing the line, elation, relief. I was happy; delighted, incredibly grateful for having taking part for having successfully completed it and for sharing this journey with a wonderful group of ladies.
Even though there were many challenges, since the day I decided to do this race and commit to encouraging others to do it to, it was such a rewarding experience. From start to finish, the training, the journey to the start line, the adventure to the finish line and the celebrations that evening.
I was incredibly proud of my sister Eilis, aka ‘Tinkerbelle’, who travelled the journey along side me and conquered the race, a real trooper. It was great to share this experience with you x
So there’s plenty of talk of what the next step might be, how adventurous it might, as we crossed the finish line we really believe that ANYTHING possible.